3 October 2022, Monday, 4:18
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Alexander Khara: The U.S. Has Sent Putin An Important Message

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Alexander Khara: The U.S. Has Sent Putin An Important Message
Alexander Khara

Washington could deliver a devastating blow if the Kremlin crosses the "red lines".

How did Ukraine react to the mobilization announced by Putin? Should we expect protests in Russia? What is Lukashenka afraid of?

Alexander Khara, Ukrainian diplomat and political scientist, expert of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation, answered these and other questions in an interview with Charter97.org.

— It was known in advance that Putin would announce a partial mobilization. How did Ukraine react to this?

— He said nothing new. Accordingly, his actions and words show that Mr Erdogan was wrong in saying that Putin is ready to end the war. The war will continue, and politically there will be an escalation, militarily the only thing the Kremlin can escalate is to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Russia does not have enough missiles, aircraft, tanks, or trained manpower to turn the tide in Ukraine. Accordingly, Putin is trying to somehow keep the positions that he has, and the announced mobilization is aimed at this. It will give absolutely nothing to the Russian armed forces in the near future. Theoretically, mobilization can prepare enough people for spring, since it takes three or four months to train a certain number of people capable of fighting, and not just recruits.

By and large, it was also a sign that Putin's war in Ukraine had failed. The next was the appeal of Mr Shoigu, the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, and he said that "they lost a total of a little more than five thousand military personnel". According to Ukrainian estimates, this figure is underestimated by about ten times. Even if you believe that Mr Shoigu is not lying, although this is difficult to do, they lost 5,000, but in order to solve the problem with Ukraine, they need to mobilize an additional 300,000. While they try to hide the sad state of affairs for the Russian invasion forces, their actions say a lot. They also no longer have the possibility of hidden mobilization. Idiot volunteers who are ready to give their lives for a bowl of soup and a pack of tobacco, the Russian army cannot cover the losses that it has suffered since February 24th. So they're introducing this partial mobilization.

It must be taken into account that Russia lives in an Orwellian world. When there was no mobilization at all, in fact, there was a hidden mobilization, they tried to involve former servicemen in the fighting, forced conscripts to sign contracts, and even reached the point that they began to send prisoners to war. Private military companies are banned in Russia, as if they do not exist, but in fact, there is Wagner. Foreign fighters were also involved in this. That is, when there was no official mobilization, there were such events. Now, with the official partial mobilization, we can say that they will row everyone and try to plug with this meat those holes that were formed in connection with the mediocre actions of the Russian military leaders and, accordingly, the very successful moves of Ukraine.

But this does not change anything for us, the war for Ukraine continues, it cannot be worse than it was, in general. The Russians are unable to do anything. Again, the only thing they can do is to launch a nuclear strike. Putin said this, he is blackmailing the West first of all, and not Ukraine, trying to demotivate those countries that support us and provide us with military assistance. This is more of a signal to Berlin and Paris than to Washington. But it doesn't really change anything. Even if Russia managed to gather 300,000 manpower in the near future, it is impossible in fact, this would not change the balance of power much.

I must also say about morale: the adopted amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that those who voluntarily surrender can receive up to ten years in prison show that they have problems with morale. They are fighting for a foreign land, in a senseless war in which they will gain nothing. At best, their parents will get a Lada Kalina car, but for the Russians, this is a completely crazy war.

— Is it possible for protest to start if new coffins start to arrive in the Russian Federation?

In this sense, I am sceptical about Russian society. Let's start with the fact that most of those who were more or less active and opposed Putin are already somewhere abroad, in the Baltic states, Poland, and Georgia. And this outflow will continue in other directions. Accordingly, there are no people who had any experience in organizing protests.

The second point: look at Navalny, he was focused on the fight against corruption and other things, he did not talk about the criminality of this government, that it is illegally held, and that there have been no elections in Russia for a long time. He did not say anything about this war. Therefore, roughly speaking, I do not see leaders who could organize protests. Russian society — is this the very atomized substance, I do not think that something will arise there, something will be swayed after Bucha, Irpin after coffins coming to the different regions of their country. The Russians did not particularly come to protest against the fact that the small peoples of the Russian Federation were being destroyed, who did not live very well in peacetime, but now are simply thrown into the furnace.

Look what is happening in Iran. There, one murder under a regime no less totalitarian, no less controlled by the special services, caused such mass protests. In Russia, the genocidal war against Ukraine causes individual heroic deeds of great people. I can’t even turn my tongue to call them Russians, just heroic people who go to single pickets and all that. For the most part, Russians simply don't care about what's going on, or they support it. Most likely, they will simply try to avoid being sent to war, this is the maximum resistance that the Russians are capable of now.

For me, an important confirmation of my theory was an interview with a woman who heads the Union of Soldiers' Mothers. She has been an active advocate for these soldiers since the war in Afghanistan. Naturally, she remembers the Chechen wars very well, not to mention Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Russians are still fighting there.

So, she was shocked, she says that the mothers and wives of those people who are in captivity are afraid and are not ready to apply to military registration and enlistment offices, military units or military prosecutors in order to save their children and husbands. That is, the level of degeneration into an animalistic state, you can’t call it otherwise, in Russian society has reached such a level that one cannot expect that something will happen, something will stir in their souls and they will go against the Fuhrer of the Russian World. I would like to be wrong, but twenty years of Putin's regime have not been in vain.

— You mentioned Putin's threats to Western countries. What will be their reaction to the so-called referendums and mobilization in the Russian Federation?

— There has already been a reaction to pseudo-referendums, no one is going to recognize them. In 2014, Putin had the opportunity to hold a “referendum” more or less accordingly, and he tried to do it in Crimea. But the result was the rejection of these pseudo-events by the entire civilized world. I want to remind you that on March 27, 2014, the UN General Assembly voted for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Putin’s friends voted for the “Russian Crimea”: Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, and Sudan. As you can see, this is a list of very "democratic" states where human rights and the rule of law "flourish".

Putin wants to do all this in order to show the Russian plebs that he is supposedly expanding territories. He had a speech on the occasion of the anniversary of Peter I, where he said that "he did not win anything, but only returned". And Putin, in this sense, says that he is returning the territories that "rightfully", as he believes, belong to Russia. This is one moment.

The second point is that, as Western experts say, he wants to call the occupied territories Russia, then Ukrainian strikes on these territories will be considered as a declaration of war. But this is total nonsense because no one recognizes this as Russian territory, that's one thing. Secondly, the Ukrainian armed forces have already launched strikes against those territories that Russia considers its own. I mean the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, on the actual Russian territory, the same Belgorod. Roughly speaking, Putin did not use the pretext of Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory to declare a large-scale war and general mobilization. Then why would he do it now?

But the most important thing is that all this does not change anything. Ukraine has destroyed most of the combat-ready Russian potential in terms of military equipment and manpower. Despite its 140 million population, its economy, a large number of remaining tanks, missiles and other scrap metal, the defence complex that they are trying to strengthen, Russia is still simply not able to do anything that would be different from what we have seen now. On the contrary, our successful strikes in the Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk and partially Kherson directions have actually made it impossible for Russia to carry out large-scale offensive operations against the Ukrainian armed forces in the near future. What Putin says is just a political reality that he has created in his head. The Russians live like that and he is trying to transfer this way of life to the West.

But it is all the same for the West. Our closest friends and neighbours - Poland, the Baltic States, and the United Kingdom - will continue to support us. So is the United States, which is our largest supplier of arms and financial aid. Mr Biden is not going to abandon the course that Ukraine receives necessary support till the end of this war on terms acceptable to Ukraine. His last interview showed this very well, Biden spoke clearly about Russia's use of nuclear weapons. He told Putin three times not to use these weapons because World War II could happen again. He did not elaborate on what this means, but if you take into account the words of Ben Hodges, the former commander of US forces in Europe, then with a possible nuclear strike on Ukraine, the response may not even be nuclear, but destructive for Russia. For example, the United States can completely destroy the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, or in Kaliningrad. And nothing will stop the Americans, they will do it. The United States has sent such a message to Putin.

Naturally, Putin understands that he will not be able to respond with a nuclear strike on the territory of the United States or its NATO allies. Roughly speaking, he will simply show his inability to implement the threats that he voiced. I share the view that Putin can attack and terrorize only those states that he considers weak, and before those that show determination, he retreats. That is why the West will not accept these pseudo referendums and will continue to support Ukraine. The genocide that the Russians perpetrated in Ukraine is one of the important elements in the system of motivation that our Western partners use to support Ukraine.

— Lukashenka also announced preparations for the transition to wartime and has been talking about his nightmares for several days: he talks about the Kalinouski Regiment and Belarusian volunteers. Why did he start talking a lot about his fears?

— The first and most important thing he is afraid of is losing his power. Almost all his curtsies about friendship, a joint vision of threats together with Putin, and requests to place nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus are all attempts to seem necessary, to play his role. But Lukashenka played too long, he made big mistakes, first of all, when he began to suppress the protests. The tyrant wants to stay in power, he kills or imprisons competitors and suppresses the media. It is clear that this leads to protests, which must then be suppressed, to strengthen the power apparatus. The states where democratic values are an important component of domestic and foreign policy do not like it. They begin to impose sanctions and isolate this regime.

His regime became an accomplice to Putin's aggression, and now the Belarusian state is the same aggressor for Ukraine in terms of international law, just like the Russian Federation. It looks like he no longer has any manoeuvre between Russia and the West in these circumstances, he must prove his necessity, indispensability, and devotion to the Fuhrer of the Russian World. Therefore, I would not pay much attention to Lukashenka in this sense, he lives and rules solely for two reasons: the first is Russian money, and the second is the Russian army. He no longer has any other resources, no international support, no viable economy to keep it afloat, it doesn't have it all. Therefore, Lukashenka is a court jester, not understanding how vulgar it looks. He certainly thinks a little differently. But Lukashenka will go down in history as a crazy tyrant, and it is difficult to call him differently.

— Can the Russian system, which is working at its limit, collapse as a result of such emergency measures by the Kremlin?

This is a difficult question. In Soviet times, there was also an evil empire, an empire of nonsense, there was no reliable information, there were no real sociological surveys, there was no statistical information on the economy, and so on. Just a few weeks ago, a Yale University professor published a study where a serious negative impact of Western sanctions was indicated, despite all the nonsense of Russian propaganda. Russia is just a too big state for the rapid effect of sanctions.

The Kremlin is trying to use the division of the world into actually three parts: there is a free world, there is tyranny, and there are developing or non-aligned countries, as they were called in Soviet times, with whom you can deal and who do not care that Ukrainian children are being killed. They will calmly buy Russian oil at a big discount. Therefore, it is difficult for us to estimate when this machine will be unable, with existing resources, to meet the needs of the ruling elite and the population, when its economy begins to collapse. Sociocultural systems are extremely difficult to predict.

It is clear that the point of no return has already been passed by the Russian Federation. If we take the economy, we see that chips from washing machines are found in Russian missiles, this says a lot. We know very well that Russia is not capable of producing high-tech things, especially under the sanctions and export controls that have been imposed against the Putin regime. But there are also social problems in addition to material ones. We remember from Soviet times, if there was no freedom, when there was the ubiquitous KGB, then talented people mostly either became drunkards or emigrated. This is also an extremely important point, because the economy, especially if we are talking about high technologies, involves people who are creative, who are free, and who make something new. Otherwise, they are forced to think in a certain way, to perform these crazy rituals of war, such things are morally and psychologically harmful to people. It results in some moral breakdowns and the same things.

As for morality, Russians have no morality, they feel comfortable for these six months when their state is waging a genocidal war. Military morale, in the sense of their military spirit, we broke it literally in the first weeks, when it was clear that Russia was not getting "plan A", then "plan B", and even more so after we liberated the territories in our eastern direction and went on to liberate the Luhansk region. Naturally, this hit them hard. But when will that be the point at which the system will stop working? I don’t think that even the CIA can predict any date with all their analytical apparatus, with all the intelligence and access to internal Putin's sources. But the fact that it's the only way is an obvious trend.

When does it all collapse? We in Ukraine hope that as soon as possible. This means preserving lives, preserving cities and being able to liberate our citizens.

Belarusians are well aware that this colonial power has not changed for more than a hundred years. We, Ukraine, Belarus and other former so-called republics of the Soviet Union are internal colonies of the Russian Federation, at least that is how Russian leadership perceives it. Genocides, Russification, deportations, a ban on national culture and language - these are the tools that are used to the full extent in reality.

Actually, this war is in the interests of all Russians. When Russia loses the war with Ukraine, it will have a chance to become a normal state. And the small peoples of the Russian Federation will have the opportunity either for national self-determination or will be able to return the minimum rights in terms of identity, culture, and language if they have not forgotten all this and this is really important for them.

If we lose (I exclude such an option), then the process of destruction of national cultures will simply accelerate. The empire must speak the same language, there must be one god and rulers. As it was there. One people, one empire, one leader. So, for modern Russia, this is one Gundyaev-type Orthodox church, the Russian language and all this distorted history.

The Russian war against Ukraine is a civilized war. And our victory will benefit not only Ukraine, it will be a push in the right way for the entire civilization.